The Age of Water: Older Than the Sun
Water is essential to life on Earth. It is a fundamental building block of all living organisms, and it is essential for various functions such as hydration, digestion, and regulating body temperature. We often take water for granted, assuming that it is a renewable resource that is constantly replenished. However, recent research has revealed that the water we drink is much older than we thought, with some of its molecules dating back billions of years.
This may seem impossible since the Earth is estimated to be 4.6 billion years old, and the Sun is believed to have formed around the same time. Therefore, how can water exist on Earth before the Sun? The answer lies in the creation of water within the massive cloud of gas and dust that preceded the birth of the Sun. This discovery has far-reaching implications for our understanding of the origins of life and the universe.
According to a recent peer-reviewed study published in the journal Science, water in our solar system had to have been created inside the massive cloud of gas and dust that preceded the birth of the Sun. This suggests that water existed before the Sun erupted into a star, and eventually reached Earth through “wet rocks” like asteroids or comets. This finding is significant since it challenges the assumption that the Earth was dry when it was created, and it raises intriguing questions about the origins of water in the universe.
Astronomers call the tiny particles used to create the Earth “dust.” These particles would gather so much energy at the Earth’s distance from the Sun that they would become too hot for water to condense on them as ice. Therefore, the Earth was dry when it was created. But where did the water originate from? This is where things become interesting.
Professor of Astronomy Ted Bergin from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor contends that the cosmos is built of atoms, not water. Therefore, those atoms in the cosmos must have joined together via chemistry at some point to make water. Astronomers are able to study this chemistry using a technique called isotope fingerprinting. By analyzing the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in water, they can determine the conditions under which water was created.
The Journey of Water to Earth: From Gas and Dust to Asteroids and Comets
Deuterium is the second kind of hydrogen that exists throughout the solar system. These elements coexist in a more-or-less steady ratio, with around 100,000 hydrogen atoms for every deuterium atom. The isotopic fingerprint becomes visible only at very low temperatures, between 10 and 20 degrees above absolute zero. Therefore, whatever the source of the water was, it must have been extremely cold. The excess of deuterium on Earth suggests that only two places in the vast, violent system where stars first begin to form can experience such low temperatures: either the protostar’s surrounding cloud of gas and dust or the accretion disc that is just beginning to form around it.
However, water is also produced chemically through a process known as ionization. By analyzing a detailed model of this chemical event, the researchers determined that the accretion disc is unable to drive it. This means that the water that bears an isotopic signature could only have formed from gas and dust approximately a million years before the Sun.
This raises the question of how this water got to Earth. According to Bergin, the same cloud of gas and dust that gave birth to the Sun also gave rise to planets. Rocks were sent into space from the cloud and collided with the subatomic particles that eventually formed Earth. They crashed with the Earth and merged with it, even though some of them lacked water. From a farther distance, more stones were thrown our way; these rocks were cold enough to hold water.
In conclusion, the recent study published in the journal Science provides compelling evidence that water on Earth is older than the Sun itself. By studying the chemical makeup of water and tracing its history back billions of years, scientists are gaining new insights into the origins of life and the history of our solar system. This discovery underscores the interconnectedness of all things in the universe and highlights the importance of exploring asteroids, comets, and other objects in our quest to understand our place in the cosmos.